Ezequiel Jean’s interview shows how becoming a commercial driver can be a fulfilling career choice if you want to know how to make money in trucking. As an immigrant who sought the opportunity the USA could offer him, Ezequiel has discovered a world of opportunity by taking ownership of his future and his family’s livelihood as a truck driver owner. After all, we are all a tight-knit community where we are determined to help each other for the sake of our collective success when starting a trucking career.
ST: Ezequiel, we know you have been driving for a long time. How did you first decide to follow this profession and starting a trucking career?
Ezequiel: Becoming a career driver has always been my dream. I love to drive and love taking care of my truck. In fact, I used to travel to the United States but it was when I decided to relocate to the US yet that I began to research the type of work my friends did—and I truly didn’t like what any of them were doing. It was then that I saw someone driving a big truck… At first, I thought that being a truck driver owner looked like something I would like to do and made the decision at that moment saying: “I’m going to drive a big truck!” It looked so cool to be a professional driver and have discovered you get to enjoy a level of freedom like no other job, while knowing your work is doing something meaningful.
ST: What did you do before starting a trucking career?
Ezequiel: When I moved to America, I started driving as soon as I graduated from Driving School in 2004. So, truck driving became my first and only job. To be honest, I did not have this opportunity in my home country of Haiti, in the Caribbean.
ST: What was the trucking industry like in Haiti?
Ezequiel: Truck driving in Haiti is not the same as it is here. The country is not as big as the US, so they only had dump trucks and smaller trucks—no big trucks. I used to drive a dump truck, there but never had a chance to drive a semi-truck. Once I started working in the US, my first truck was a Peterbilt since everyone was telling me it was a good truck with a very good engine. At that time, I didn’t know much about trucks and depended on asking around for advice from others, so I just took a chance as a new truck driver owner.
ST: How did you decide on starting a trucking career in this industry?
Ezequiel: My best friend works at Home Depot and I didn’t like that type of work. Another friend of mine works at a warehouse and I didn’t like that either. The moment I saw someone driving a big truck as a truck driver owner is when I knew that’s what I wanted to do for a living in the US as an Owner Operator, especially for a reputable trucking company.
ST: What was your first driving job?
Ezequiel: After truck driving school, I went to Werner for training as a first step in how to make money in trucking. Then, I bought my own truck and was driving on my own, booking my own loads. When business slowed down, I went to work at US Express for four years.
ST: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started as a truck driver owner?
Ezequiel: I would have hoped someone could tell me more about the business, shared more knowledge about the trucks and how to make money in trucking. It would have been helpful to have someone support me in making a better choice about the truck I wanted to purchase.
ST: What do you wish someone would have told you when you first started as an Owner Operator?
Ezequiel: I wish someone would have helped me handle all the paperwork and how hard it is to manage it by yourself as a truck driver owner It would have been nice for someone to encourage me to train with someone as a way to learn more about the trucking business—especially to avoid trying to do everything by yourself with the help of a reputable trucking company.
ST: How do you maximize your profit?
Ezequiel: First, I try to live in your truck to lower my expenses. Second, if you think your truck has a problem—go fix it before it becomes a real problem. Third, don’t go buy things you don’t need. And fourth, drive at 65 mph, because it will save you on fuel! These are the secrets on to how to make money in trucking.
ST: How do you prepare for equipment repairs?
Ezequiel: I started by fixing my credit score and since I have worked hard to keep my credit scores high. I now have a good credit card, so if anything happens, I’m good and ready to handle the expense as a truck driver owner. I also save some money for repairs and invest in maintaining my truck. Having a really good credit card—in case something like the engine goes out—is very important, just in case something comes up.
ST: What has kept you in the industry all this time since starting a trucking career?
Ezequiel: The joy in doing what I’m doing, because I really love to see the world. I was in Washington recently and it was so nice. It is so good to be out on the road, doing what brings me joy with the support of a reputable trucking company.
ST: What tips can you give a truck driver owner when dealing with their dispatcher?
Ezequiel: Some drivers like long freight and some like short freight. Short freight is more about appointment times, which translates into more stress. Some like to pick up a load today and deliver it tomorrow. In my case, I prefer long freight. That’s why it is important to have good communication with your dispatcher—and aim to become friends with him or her. Communication is very important since you become committed to starting a trucking career, so let the dispatcher know if you don’t like something. And also let him or her know when you do like something so they can understand what motivates you.
ST: Have there been any situations while being the trucking industry that made you wiser or better as an Owner Operator?
Ezequiel: I become wiser every day—with every load and every customer.
ST: How long did it take for you to be comfortable on the road when you first started?
Ezequiel: I love being out by myself, so it was very easy for me to adjust to driving on my own as an Owner Operator. I have always been comfortable being on the road alone. I was never scared, so I didn’t take me long to get into it and start running.
ST: How did you decide to buy your own truck and become an Owner Operator?
Ezequiel: After school I knew that as a driver, I could not decline a load. I really wanted to be on my own and not want to take orders from anyone wanting to figure out how to make money in trucking. That is when I decided to go back to my country and sell my house and used that money to buy my first truck.
ST: How long do you stay out on the road at a time? What regions do you run and why?
Ezequiel: When I first started as a truck driver owner, I was out two weeks and come back home on the weekends. However, I soon realized I needed to stay out longer to make good money. That’s when I started driving for 4-5 months at a time, returning home for two weeks but that was little too much for me and my family. I finally settled for being out 4-6 weeks and then back home for one week, which is what works best for me, until this day.
ST: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an Owner Operator for the first time?
Ezequiel: The advice I would give someone starting a trucking career is to become motivated and make sure this is something you really want to do. It is not easy work, but if it is what you want you should go for it! Don’t give up, even when it may seem hard.
ST: Any tips or tricks that new drivers should know?
Ezequiel: Love what you do as a truck driver owner, keep your truck in good shape, keep your truck in good standing, keep your mind clear, and stay positive. Sometimes business can slow down, but always know good times are ahead and you’re in it for the long run—that’s the secret on how to make money in trucking.
ST: What is the most important thing that leads to success in this industry?
Ezequiel: If you are starting a trucking career, motivate yourself to be better, to stay focused every step of the way, and to be ambitious. Persevere a learn to adapt to new rules and new experiences you encounter. Just know there will always be change and you just need to keep adapting to it.
ST: What was the most memorable experience on the road that you remember?
Ezequiel: There are so many stories and memories from being on the road as an Owner Operator… I like the most when you see other drivers from all over the states and other countries coming together to help each other. I love to help people, just like they would do it for me. One time my truck broke down, another driver stopped and helped me out. I will never forget that day and I’m very thankful for that guy who helped me out.
ST: How did this other truck driver owner help you?
Ezequiel: I was driving a loaner truck when I broke down. I tried to fix the problem myself, hoping to save money so I went to a supplier and bought the parts myself. While I thought it would take me 30 minutes to one hour to fix the issue, it actually took me almost 3 hours to put it all together. That day the temperature was more than 100 degrees outside that day and the weather was awful. Another driver that was parked next to me saw what I was doing and said: “I can’t just sit in my truck in the A/C while watching you do this. Let’s do this together. We are all in this together, so let me help you out.” We started working together and fixed the problem. That fellow Owner Operator made me realize there are really amazing people in the trucking community.
ST: Was there ever a time that you helped out another truck driver?
Ezequiel: Yes, there was a truck driver owner that broke down at a shipper and he was trying to pick up a load. His truck wouldn’t start and he was getting so frustrated. I felt for him, so I got out of my truck, took my truck battery out of my truck, and put my battery in his truck to get it started. It was not easy and it took us about two hours to get his truck started. When we did, he was so happy and I said “we are all in this together and we always need to help each other.”
ST: Are you planning to buy additional trucks and become a fleet owner in the near future?
Ezequiel: It is very difficult to find a good driver, and expecting them to care for your things as you would. I love to drive for myself, it is very peaceful and stress free. I am not thinking about getting any additional trucks at this time.
ST: Now that the country is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, how are things out on the road?
Ezequiel: As a truck driver owner it is not as scary being out on the road and I feel more comfortable on the road. The weather is also getting cooler and comfortable, so I am very happy to be safe and healthy.